Friday, July 30, 2010

A mini-"World Food Programme"

On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 I asked for articles about Norman Borlaug from my friends when I got this email digest link on a retrospective on Norman Ernest Borlaug. Immediately Siva sent me the pdf and also mentioned that he "talks about Borlaug Borlaug in soil ecology and south east asia conservation. 3-4 slides only with Ehrlich saying millions would starve and then came along Borlaug with dwarf spring wheat..." Siva also mentioned that he had seen an episode in the West Wing that mentioned Borlaug. He blogged about it here I as discover

Norman Borlaug's scientific contribution and industry was compelling and something I felt I could share with my science class. So I did up a just-in-time lecture. It's true that when you teach, you learn twice as my landlady used to say. So the more I did up my slides, the more I learnt of his enormous contribution to alleviating hunger. We've heard so much about the Green Revolution but when I dip-stick any class about who Norman Borlaugh was, I get blank stares. Then again, lots of people I know don't even know what types of food are made from wheat flour. And here was a man who almost single-handedly solve world hunger; and for India and Pakistan, their wheat yields went from famine levels to levels of self-sufficiency in just over half a decade, with India going on to becoming a net wheat exporter.

Within a few days of doing up the JIT lecture, I heard that the National Institute of Education was hosting Dr. M. Vijaya Gupta, World Food Prize Laureate who would talk about his fish programme in Bangladesh in the 1980s. The stories of how women become empowered through rural aquaculture were riveting and heartwarming.

It became a need for me now to package this into some sort of programme for students to get a more first-hand experience of "food". So that was how the Raffles "World Food Programme" was born. Interestingly, this food programme idea got people I spoke to, more interested than when i spoke about any other science workshops or electives that I have carried out. Food is such a common denominator.




and our first harvest of pak choy. Extremely delicious with a taste of the earth.

And just when I thought food issues were not going to be resurfaced again, publishes a special feature entitled "Can science feed the world?" and just yesterday.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Celebrating the mangroves

I use this video very often to tell stories to new students. Somehow it also gives me credibility! I guess like the moon, I shine with borrowed light from the likes of Attenborough and our resident mangrove denizen - Otterman. The whole picture of our local mangrove Otterman pulling the legend is cause for quite and deep celebration.

I remember during the busiest part of my school teaching term, Siva asks me to be a chauffeur for some visiting scientist who wanted to visit mangroves. I said yes before even getting any details and didnt think much of it... Must be another day out with european zoologists that needed some samples and then a good prata somewhere.

The next day I drove and parked at the rendevous, Orchid Hotel Lobby where the BBC team was. I walked out of my car and towards to lobby only to see a vision of Sir David Attenborough appearing next to the concierge with a beaming Otterman in usual bermudas and torn polo t-shirt to receive him.

The only other time I was close to Attenborough was when I was hiking through Richmond in London after a lab session at Kew and someone told me he lived around there.

Here's Otterman's version of the mangrove episode.

Labels: , , ,